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January, 2009:

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Updated on Jan 20, 2009 – SCMP

While it is understandable that some businesses in Hong Kong fear they may lose customers and thereby profits if wider smoking bans are introduced, let us not lose sight of the bigger issues.

By providing places for people to smoke, smoking is encouraged.

By it being made comparatively easy to find a public place to smoke, more cigarettes will be consumed.

The consumption of cigarettes will lead to more smoking-induced illnesses, and about half of all smokers will die protracted and painful deaths as a result.

Delaying the introduction of wider smoking bans might well add to the profits of some bars and restaurants as smokers would presumably prefer to go to them (though non-smokers might eschew them).

But at what cost? The health costs to individuals, smokers and passive smokers who work in smoke-polluted rooms are known and are grave. The cost to the smoker’s family, when illness debilitates him, is also grave.

The sick smoker’s medical and social security costs to the whole community are other factors to be weighed against the profits of the few.

All in all, on health, economic and indeed on humanitarian grounds, to delay further restricting indoor smoking areas is indefensible.

Paul Surtees, Mid-Levels

Should The Full Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 17, 2009 – SCMP

The answer is absolutely “No”. The grace period that was allowed before implementation of the full smoking ban should not be prolonged.

Why are people so selfish? Everybody knows that smoking adversely affects our health and damages our respiratory system.

Non-smokers working in places where smoking is allowed are forced to inhale poisonous second-hand smoke. They are forced to sacrifice their health in order to feed their families.

Smoking is a selfish form of behaviour that exploits the basic human rights of others.

Winnie Fong, Lam Tin

Should The Ban On Smoking Be Delayed?

Jan 16, 2009 – SCMP

As a lifelong non-smoker I fall into the category of not minding some smoke, but dislike the “it’s my right” attitude displayed by so many smokers and at times the physical assault by smoke that you have to endure.

The ban seems to be a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but just as happens so often on the mainland, the rules may be there, however, they are rarely enforced and certainly not consistently.

This leads to resentment on both sides of the fence, smokers and non-smokers, each believing the other is being unreasonable.

Anyone caught by the smoking ban will feel aggrieved that so many others escape sanction, while the non-smokers will rightly state that their health and safety is being put at risk by smokers with little respect for decent behaviour or the law.

Is the solution trial prosecutions of smokers who assault non-smokers with fumes under criminal rules relating to “assault with a deadly weapon” (the scientific evidence appears solid) or is that too extreme?

Certainly bars have been vocal over the loss of trade due to the smoking issue, although perhaps the effect will be less noticeable if a full ban is imposed, but is it a real solution in a “free” society?

Perhaps the problem is exacerbated by the pressures of big business and the more open layout of many bars, clubs and restaurants in recent years.

Perhaps the solution is to split establishments, with the “active smoking areas” paying more to compensate for the additional ventilation, and the cost of clearing the air and cleaning the curtains.

Clearly smokers have benefited from sharing these costs over the years and perhaps now is the time to redress the balance.

Nick Bilcliffe, Lamma Island

Nicotine Properties

Division of Periodontology, University of Minnesota

Nicotine combines with a number of neurotransmitters in the brain and may contribute to the following effects:

Dopamine: Pleasure, suppress appetite Norepinephrine: Arousal, suppress appetite
Acetylcholine: Arousal, cognitive enhancement Vasopressin: Memory improvement
Serotonin: Mood modulation, suppress appetite Beta-endorphin: Reduce anxiety / tension

Tobacco is as addictive as heroin (as a mood & behavior altering agent).

  • Nicotine is:
    • 1000 X more potent than alcohol
    • 10-100 X more potent than barbiturates
    • 5-10 X more potent than cocaine or morphine

  • A 1-2 pack per day smoker takes 200-400 hits daily for years. This constant intake of a fast acting drug (which affects mood, concentration & performance).. eventually produces dependence.

Pressures to relapse are both behaviorally & pharmacologically triggered.
Quitting involves a significantly serious psychological loss… a serious life style change.

Should The Ban On Smoking Be Delayed?

SCMP – Updated on Jan 15, 2009

P. A. Crush (Talkback, January 10) is absolutely right to question the use of statistics churned out by the Anthony Hedley/Judith Mackay camp on passive smoking.

A little park at the side of Hiram’s Highway in Sai Kung has been designated a no-smoking zone. This banning of smoking outdoors is a further encroachment on the lives of the old and poor who gathered here to enjoy their hard-earned leisure time and to smoke if they so wished. It would be ridiculous to suggest that their cigarettes contributed more “poison” to the outdoor air quality than the endless stream of private cars that shuttle between Clear Water Bay and Sai Kung, both of which are linked by public transport.

If they are forced to give up the habit of a lifetime for the public good, it is very little to ask of the zealous protectors of our air quality that they too make sacrifices by abandoning their private vehicles and cycling to their important public health meetings.

I should like to be assured through these columns by Dr Mackay and Professor Hedley that they do not affect the quality of the air I breathe in Sai Kung parks by driving private cars past the very places they have been so vociferous in advocating as no-smoking areas.

It would be unacceptable to be involved with clean air and public health and drive a private car without being deemed hypocritical. I use public transport and am a non-smoker.

Cynthia Henderson, Sai Kung

Clear The Air: Cost of Tobacco In Hong Kong

Clear the Air says:

There is a misconception in Hong Kong that the Government wants people to continue to smoke so they can receive billions in excise tax dollars on tobacco products.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

In 2007 Hong Kong Government collected 2.834 billion in tobacco tax. Meanwhile the cost to society for health care and lost productivity was HK$ 5.366 billion.

Adding the cost of lives lost attributable to tobacco related diseases the annual cost to Hong Kong society is HK$ 73.32 billion of which HK$ 16.86 billion is attributable to the costs of passive smoking.

To save lives and health care costs the Administration mandates selt belts in vehicles, crash helmts for motorcyles and scooters, safety boots , harnesses and helmets for construction sites and non smoking workplaces for our protection.

Tobacco Excise duty : Year 2007 sales in ()


For each 1 000 cigarettes

HK$804 (3495.73 million)



HK$1035/kg (20,254 kg)


Chinese prepared tobacco

HK$197/kg (4,014 kg)


All other manufactured tobacco except tobacco intended for the manufacture of cigarettes

HK$974  (1,818 kg)

Excise Tax received (HK$)

a) 2,810,566,920

b) 20,962,890

c) 790,758

d) 1,770,732

Total excise duty received in 2007 by HK Government

HK$ 2,834,091,300

Tobacco Control 2006;15:125-130; doi:10.1136/tc.2005.013292
Copyright © 2006 by the BMJ Publishing Group Ltd.


Anti-Smoking Advocate Is Named to Health Post

January 14, 2009 – By ROBERT PEAR – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama said Tuesday that he had chosen the head of a leading anti-tobacco organization to be the No. 2 official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The prospective nominee, William V. Corr, is executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a nonprofit group that seeks to reduce tobacco use among children and adults.

As a member of the Obama transition team, Mr. Corr has led efforts to review and evaluate the work of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Obama has selected Tom Daschle, a former Senate Democratic leader, to be secretary of health and human services. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Corr would be the deputy secretary. From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Corr worked as chief counsel and policy director for Mr. Daschle, when Mr. Daschle was minority leader.

The new Congress is expected to move aggressively against the tobacco industry, by increasing federal regulation of cigarettes, raising taxes on tobacco products and approving an international tobacco control treaty.

As a senator, Mr. Obama, an intermittent smoker, was a co-sponsor of a bill that would have given the Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate “the manufacture, marketing, and distribution” of tobacco products, including cigarettes.

On its Web site, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says its goals are “to prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.”

In reports filed with Congress, the campaign has listed Mr. Corr as a lobbyist and said it lobbied not only Congress, but also federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Trade Commission.

The anti-tobacco group reported lobbying expenses that totaled $2.4 million from 2003 to 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group that tracks the influence of money on politics and government policy.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama often criticized the influence of lobbyists in Washington. But some of his strongest allies here have worked as lobbyists for consumer groups, labor unions, environmental groups and civil rights organizations.

In the Clinton administration, Mr. Corr was chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he worked for Secretary Donna E. Shalala.

Before joining Mr. Daschle’s staff, Mr. Corr worked for two liberal Democrats known as tenacious investigators and consumer advocates: Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio, who was chairman of the antitrust subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, and Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, who was chairman of the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Mr. Waxman was the chief sponsor of a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House last year that would have empowered the F.D.A. to regulate tobacco products. The Senate did not act on the measure.

As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the new Congress, Mr. Waxman will play a major role in efforts to provide coverage to the 46 million people who have no health insurance.

Before coming to Washington, Mr. Corr worked at several community-run primary health care centers in Appalachia. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.

“Reforming our health care system will be a top priority of my administration and key to putting our economy back on track,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday. “Under the leadership of Tom Daschle and Bill Corr, I am confident that my Department of Health and Human Services will bring people together to reach consensus on how to move forward with health care reform.”

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 14, 2009 – SCMP

I refer to the letter by P.A. Crush (Talkback, January 10).

Your correspondent said: “Smokers are not `compelled’ by their addiction to continue smoking as Clear the Air suggests.”

Why is it then that so many people try to quit, but cannot. Throwing in a recent statistic, why is it that a smoker needs to try to give up smoking 10 times before managing to quit? Smoking is clearly an addiction, much like crack cocaine, which has in fact been said to be easier to give up than smoking.

In terms of your correspondent’s reference to polluting vehicles on the road, most private vehicles do not run on diesel fuel and therefore do not spew out particulate matter (PM-2.5), which can travel directly into our lungs when we breathe, much like tobacco smoke or the smoke that escapes from coal-fired power plants.

This pollution from buses and goods trucks is therefore the most harmful to public health and should be targeted first, before private vehicles, especially given the high number of buses concentrated around the most (roadside) polluted areas.

Besides that, Hong Kong has become the dumping ground for vehicles from Japan, South Korea and elsewhere due to the fact that the Hong Kong government has not enforced any emission standards on diesel vehicles, of which many have exceeded their normal operating lifespan.

Rather than offering a subsidy to convert or replace the 49,161 pre-Euro and 25,206 Euro I diesel vehicles (which will create 74 per cent and 38 per cent less vehicle emissions of particulates and nitrogen oxides) to stricter emission standards, the government should set a deadline for these to be implemented and, if they are not, fines or emission taxes should be promptly put in place.

Michael Pieper, Discovery Bay

Brain Scans Reveal Why Smokers Struggle To Quit

January 12, 2009 – Tech Journal South

DURHAM, NC Just seeing someone smoke can trigger smokers to abandon their nascent efforts to kick the habit, according to new research conducted at Duke University Medical Center.

Brain scans taken during normal smoking activity and 24 hours after quitting show there is a marked increase in a particular kind of brain activity when quitters see photographs of people smoking.

The study, which appears online in Psychopharmacology, sheds important light on why it’s so hard for people to quit smoking, and why they relapse so quickly, explains Joseph McClernon, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center.

“Only five percent of unaided quit attempts result in successful abstinence,” says McClernon. “Most smokers who try to quit return to smoking again. We are trying to understand how that process works in the brain, and this research brings us one step closer.”

The Duke researchers used a brain-imaging tool called functional MRI to visualize changes in brain activity that occurs when smokers quit.

The smokers were scanned once before quitting and again 24 hours after they quit. Each time they were scanned while being shown photographs of people smoking.

“Quitting smoking dramatically increased brain activity in response to seeing the smoking cues,” says McClernon, “which seems to indicate that quitting smoking is actually sensitizing the brain to these smoking cues.”

Even more surprising, he adds, is the area of the brain that was activated by the cues.

“We saw activation in the dorsal striatum, an area involved in learning habits or things we do by rote, like riding a bike or brushing our teeth. Our research shows us that when smokers encounter these cues after quitting, it activates the area of the brain responsible for automatic responses.

“That means quitting smoking may not be a matter of conscious control. So, if we’re really going to help people quit, this emphasizes the need to do more than tell people to resist temptation. We also have to help them break that habitual response.”

New treatment options at Duke are aiming to do just that. One area of research is focusing on the use of a nicotine patch prior to quitting smoking.

In previously published research, Jed Rose, Director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research and co-author of this paper as well, showed that wearing the patch and smoking a cigarette with no nicotine proved successful at breaking the learned behavior.

“The smoking behavior is not reinforced because the act of smoking is not leading them to get the nicotine,” Rose said. “Doing this before people actually quit helps them break the habit so they start smoking less. We’re seeing people quit longer this way.”

Should The Smoking Ban Be Delayed?

Jan 12th 2009 – SCMP

As a non-smoker, I do not think the smoking ban should be delayed.

As everyone knows, smoking harms our health, and in this regard it affects smokers and non-smokers.

Smokers talk about their rights being infringed.

But what about the right of non-smokers not to be exposed to second-hand smoke?

I do not see smoking rooms as a solution to the problem, as some of the smoke is bound to escape. And what about the health of people who use them and are in smoke-filled rooms.

Some people argue that it is up to individuals whether or not they wish to work or eat in a restaurant that allows smoking.

However, some people may have no choice but to work in a restaurant or bar where people smoke, especially during the present economic downturn.

Employees exposed to this kind of environment will put up with it if the alternative is not working and therefore receiving no income.

Laws exist to protect the public. The government should implement the full smoking ban and then it is up to smokers to light up in the privacy of their own homes.

Emily Lau Lai-fan, Ngau Tau Kok